A Visit to the Hawaiian Tropical Botanical Gardens Part 1

First, let me tell you, that taking the time to trek across Hawaii (the Big Island) to visit the Hawaiian Tropical Botancial Gardens was ABSOLUTELY worth it!!

Just outside of Hilo, tucked into a lush valley overlooking the Pacific Ocean, are the Hawaiian Tropcial Botanical Gardens. 

Above, the kids decided to accompany me for the day, much to my surprise, and truly enjoyed the outing. 

After checking out the little gift shop and purchasing our passes to tour the gardens, we headed for the entrance and stopped to admire unknown and alien looking plants along the way. (Compared to our plants in the PNW.)

Beechey Bamboo - bambusa beecheyana poaceae - origin China

Bougainvillea in a vivid magenta hue

The trail begins with a long walk down a wooden raised boardwalk. Folks who may require assistance down the trail could hop a ride on a golf-cart that would take them down to the ground floor. There was plenty of room and pull outs for the cart to allow passersby and it all went off without a hitch.

At the head of the trail
I'll do my best to identify plants. Please forgive any mistakes. 

It is a sight to behold... orchids growing in their natural habitat. 
Ferns growing on the tree trunks. I believe 'Maidenhair'  Adiantum capillus-veneris
These botanical gardens have a neat history. 

From www.hawaii.com

"The Garden was established in 1978 after Dan and Pauline Lutkenhouse purchased the secluded and beautiful property in Onomea (which means ‘good feeling’) without knowing exactly what they wanted to do with it. Lutkenhouse quickly decided to establish a botanical garden, and preserve the valley and its beauty forever. After eight years of backbreaking work, clearing the wild and overgrown jungle by hand so as not to destroy or disturb the natural environment, the Gardens opened to the public in 1984"

patiently (or not so patiently) waiting for mom to finish taking photos

It was fascinating to follow the canopy layers as we walked down the trail. The size of the plants were awe inspiring...compared to their tiny counterparts that we see in our local indoor plant nurseries. 

No flower, but this is 'Raspberry Yogurt' costos vargasi costaccae - origin Peru
'Ten Day' Heliconia rostrata - Lobster Claw Plant
Ferns or palms?? I think these were Highland Betel Nut Palms - origin - New Guinea

Bee hive ginger 'Pink Maracas'

Vine is scindapsus pictus- origin Malaysia
Alison says...Cordyline - found it: Cordyline fruticosa 'Miss Andrea'  • Asparagaceae
The lighting was tough to get the kind of wide shots I would have liked. It was this lush environment where every green thing had a different shape and texture. It was overwhelming to a person who is really, quite unfamiliar, with tropical plants. 

I could have taken half a day to walk down the boardwalk and still not have seen everything. 

In part 2, I'll explore the sights as we wandered around the ground floor. In part 3, I'll show you the orchids. The AMAZING orchid gardens!! There could be a part 4. I took so many pictures.

Stay tuned. 

Cheers, Jenni


  1. I loved your post! My husband and I have visited the National Botanical Gardens on Kauai and I just got done writing two posts about them to be published a few months from now. Your timing is perfect, as I was just thinking Hawaii and here is your fabulous post! This garden looks wonderful and you have captured the plants perfectly. Thank you for your wonderful timing and for the fabulous stroll down memory lane.

  2. A little Hawaii time ws just what I needed to start my day...Thanks!

  3. I can't wait to see your parts 2 & 3, Jenni! I LOVE that place! I was so surprised that it was THAT cool. I actually have zero expectation that you'll know any semblance of names to these tropical plants. I certainly didn't! Truly inspiring place.

    1. Alyse, I tried to take photos of the name plates, which they have nicely placed but some of the plates didn't match the photos as I've been double checking at home. Oops!!

    2. Ha! That sounds like a lot of work :D, and bizarrely fun. (Plant geeks! We're so weird.) I took pics of the name plates too. Seemed like there was less signage around the orchids, if I remember correctly. I remember one section I really wanted to figure out, but it was so complex. It was the place with the most floral color--main path, toward the bottom (I think). We got poured on too. It came and went, came and went. Those umbrellas are "standard issue"!

  4. Looks like an amazing place. Any problems with steamy camera lens?

    1. We did encounter a freak rainstorm. It just came out of nowhere! We hid under the canopy of a large tree, but still ended up soaked. All I cared about was not getting the camera wet!

  5. I waited a day to really take the time to sit down and look over your post. I wanted to be able to savor it without the distraction of my own garden calling me. More to come, how wonderful. Is that unknown plant a Cordyline? It looks a lot like some of the small houseplant size ones with wide colorful leaves we often see here for sale. I was surprised to see that first pic of the kids, I wondered how many photos you would take of them looking impatiently back at you!

  6. I LOVED this garden when we visited in 2014. I just couldn't stop saying "Wow!" It was right after I broke my knee, so although I made it down to the lowest level by myself, I was very glad for the golf-cart assist back up to the top!

    1. Due to kids in tow...I didn't see all of the gardens....gee, guess I'll have to go back! Glad they have the golf carts, that would have been an impossible trek up on a healing broken knee!


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